Skip to main content

Refugees in search of peace in New Year: They flee war and hunger, are forced to leave homelands as they have no choice

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
A new year has just dawned! To the hoots of sirens and the blasts of trumpets, to firework displays and the singing of Auld Lang Syne the world bade goodbye to 2017 and welcomed yet another year. As one looked back the past year, there was certainly much to be thankful for. Our good God continued to rain down his blessings in abundance to all. Yes, tragedies and suffering continued to be the lot of many too.
Sadly many of the tragedies, which affected millions across the globe, though referred to as natural calamities, are in reality man-made caused by greed, over- consumption, wanton destruction of the eco-systems and over-exploitation of natural resources. Above all, war and violence continued to rule the roost; peace in 2017 remained as elusive as ever.
Come 2018 the world will continue to pursue peace. It will not be easy by any count. Despotic leaders, who seem to revel in war and violence, control a good part of the world today. They constantly search for the enemy very often far away from their own shores. The military-industrial complex has reaped rich profits (drenched in blood) in the recent past. Some economies thrive when wars continue elsewhere. Then there are those countries, which continuously display an arrogance doing what they want, aggravating violence and tension in other parts of the world, despite UN resolutions or the common understanding of most other countries.
It is therefore fitting that for the fifty-first time, the Catholic Church celebrates New Year Day as the World Day of Peace with a universal call for substantial action in the pursuit of peace. This year the message of Pope Francis is based on the theme Migrants and refugees: men and women in search of peace. Given the challenges that most migrants and refugees face today the message is not merely relevant, it is an urgent call to action. The message begins with the words, Peace to all people and to all nations on earth! Peace, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night, is a profound aspiration for everyone, for each individual and all peoples, and especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence. Pope Francis making it very clear that his message is addressed to all, that peace is something we all long for and above all, there are people in this world like migrants and refugees who are deprived of it.
He goes on to say that migrants and refugees are also genuinely in search of peace. They flee war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands -- because they have no choice. They long for a more stable, safe and secure environment in which they can live peacefully, with dignity, equity and liberty. These are, as Pope Francis says, men and women, children, young and elderly people, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace. In order to find that peace, they are willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous, to endure hardships and suffering, and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from their goal.
His message of peace is a call to embrace them in a spirit of compassion. He goes on to add, We know that it is not enough to open our hearts to the suffering of others. Much more remains to be done before our brothers and sisters can once again live peacefully in a safe home. Welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and goodwill, vigilant and sympathetic attention, the responsible management of new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to say nothing of resources, which are always limited. By practising the virtue of prudence, government leaders should take practical measures to welcome, promote, protect, integrate and, within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good, to permit [them] to become part of a new society.
In the face of growing xenophobia, racism, jingoism and exclusiveness, Pope Francis highlights the fact that migrants and refugees contribute significantly to the societies, which accept them; besides when host communities transcend bigotry, there is mutual enrichment. When we turn that (contemplative) gaze to migrants and refugees, we discover that they do not arrive empty-handed. They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them. We also come to see the creativity, tenacity and spirit of sacrifice of the countless individuals, families and communities around the world who open their doors and hearts to migrants and refugees, even where resources are scarce.
Pope Francis makes a fervent appeal to all to mainstream what he refers to as the Four mileposts for action: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate migrants and refugees. Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating. He goes on to provide explanations of how these mileposts for action can be realized practically.
Finally, in keeping with a commitment made by 193 nations in September 2016, he challenges world leaders to keep up to their promise. It is my heartfelt hope this spirit will guide the process that in the course of 2018 will lead the United Nations to draft and approve two Global Compacts, one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees. As shared agreements at a global level, these compacts will provide a framework for policy proposals and practical measures. For this reason, they need to be inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process. Only in this way can the realism required of international politics avoid surrendering to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference.
Our common home has been very much in the vision of Pope Francis: the way we treat it, nurture it; the way we care for another very specially for the excluded like migrants and refugees. Every human years for peace and so do the migrants and refugees. As we enter a New Year, we all need to do our best to make peace more tangible. Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating the excluded: migrants, refugees and others forcibly displaced will surely lead to that peace we all pursue!
---
*Indian human rights activist, currently based in Lebanon and engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.